Washington D.C.

Spies, Lies & Intelligence: The World of International Espionage

Discover a world of espionage and learn about spy history and 21st-century intelligence threats as you explore the nation’s capital and its museums with intelligence experts.
Rating (4.94)
Program No. 16126RJ
5 days
Starts at
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At a Glance

The United States’ 16 national intelligence agencies have always been shrouded in secrecy. Now, some of their covert cases have been marked unclassified. On this fascinating adventure at the front line of the world’s spy coterie in Washington, D.C., delve into the history of covert intelligence in America and hear about the changing role of the CIA through America’s changing culture, foreign policy and politics. Learn about the art of espionage, find out how spies are recruited and hear stories of the many women who fly below the radar as master spies.
Activity Level
Easy Going
Minimal walking, standing in museums for up to two hours.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Retired intelligence experts and an NSA officer take you into their seamy world, uncovering Washington, D.C.’s lesser-known spy history and discussing famous spy cases — from the cracked to the unsolved.
  • Explore the NSA’s Cryptologic Museum, the National Law Enforcement Museum and Spy Museum to learn about the secret world of code making and code breaking.
  • Hear from a cyber security specialist, and examine the role of intelligence in 21st-century threats from the Cuban Missile Crisis to the September 11 attacks.
Featured Expert
All Experts
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Jon Wiant
Professor Jon A. Wiant is a decorated Senior Intelligence Officer with a distinguished 36-year career working on assignments at the Department of State, the White House, the Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency. Since retiring, he has become an adjunct professor at George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs. Jon has more than a dozen medals and awards for exceptional work in sensitive intelligence operations and has authored more than 50 articles and book chapters on intelligence and foreign policy subjects.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

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Rhea Siers
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Jon Wiant
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Barbara Longnecker
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John Bessette
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Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Spy Book: The Encyclopedia of Espionage
by Polmar, Norman and Allen, Thomas B.
The most comprehensive single volume ever published, covering intelligence, espionage, & cryptography. Covers from the earliest use of the word spy to the revelations of the Aldrich Ames case & the post-Cold War reorg. of Russian intelligence. More than 2,000 entries on people, agencies, operations, tradecraft, & tools uncover the secrets of this underground world. Reveals the most interesting cases & those that have had the greatest influence on world events. 27 Master Entries include major spy rings, major countries outlining nat. intelligence serv. & activities, & all categories of tradecraft. Over 60 illustrations, many published for the first time.
Spy Sites of Washington, DC: A Guide to the Capital Region's Secret History
by Wallace, Robert and Melton, H. Keith
Washington, DC, stands at the epicenter of world espionage. Mapping this history from the halls of government to tranquil suburban neighborhoods reveals scoresof dead drops, covert meeting places, and secret facilities—a constellation ofclandestine sites unknown to even the most avid history buffs. Until now. Spy Sites of Washington, DC traces more than two centuries of secret history from the Mount Vernon study of spymaster George Washington to the Cleveland Park apartment of the “Queen of Cuba.” In 220 main entries as well as listings for dozens more spy sites, intelligence historians Robert Wallace and H. Keith Melton weave incredible true stories of derring-do and double-crosses that put even the best spy fiction to shame. Maps and more than three hundred photos allow readers to follow in the winding footsteps of moles and sleuths, trace the covert operations that influenced wars hot and cold, and understand the tradecraft traitors and spies alike used in the do-or-die chess games that have changed the course of history. Informing and entertaining, Spy Sites of Washington, DC is the comprehensive guidebook to the shadow history of our nation’s capital.
The Enemy Within: A History of Espionage
by Terry Crowdy
To gain the upper hand in conflict the ability to know what your enemy is planning is vital. Massive amounts of money have been spent and many lives have been lost in pursuit of this objective. From biblical times to the present day, leaders have employed espionage on and off the battlefield in the quest for victory. Tactics might differ, from dirty tricks and theft to interrogation and torture, but the aim is the same - to outmaneuver your enemy and emerge triumphant. Separating myth from reality, Terry Crowdy traces the history of espionage from its development in ancient times through to the end of the Cold War and into the 21st century, shedding light on the clandestine activities that have so often tipped the balance in times of war. His lively narrative delves into the murky depths of the realm of the spymasters and their spies, revealing many amazing, and often bizarre stories, along the way. From "the slave with the tattoed head" in Ancient Greece, through the ship's monkey hanged as a spy during the Napoleonic wars to the British "Double Cross" ruse in World War II, and from Ivan the Terrible's forming of the first Russian secret police in the 16th century through sexual wiles of Mata Hari to operations in the 21st century Middle East, this entertaining true history of espionage is as exciting as any spy fiction.
Of Spies and Lies
by Sullivan, John
Any serious study of the Vietnam War would be less than complete without accounting for the CIA's role in that conflict-a role that increased dramatically after the Tet offensive in 1968. We know most of the details of military engagement in Vietnam, given its greater visibility, but until recently clandestine operations have remained shrouded in secrecy. John Sullivan was one of the CIA's top polygraph examiners during the final four years of the war in Vietnam, where he served longer and conducted more lie detector tests than any other examiner and worked with more agents than most of his colleagues. His job was to evaluate the reliability of the agency's information sources, an assignment that gave him a more intimate view of the war than was afforded most other participants. In the first book to be written by such an operative, he tells what it was like to be an agency officer working in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos during those chaotic years, putting a human face on covert operations that helps us better understand why we lost the war. Of Spies and Lies traces Sullivan's journey from dedication to disillusionment while serving in Southeast Asia. Although many CIA personnel lived better in Vietnam and made more money than ever before, their actual working conditions hindered effective intelligence gathering. A much larger and far more distressing obstacle, however, was the agency's failure to send its "best and brightest" agents to Southeast Asia. On the contrary, as Sullivan notes, Vietnam became a kind of dumping ground for poor performers, alcoholics, refugees from bad marriages, and other "problem agents." One of the most frank and intimate looks at CIA operations in Vietnam ever published, Of Spies and Lies reveals why the CIA's efforts there were such a failure and allows a more complete assessment of its poor performance in a losing cause.
Spy: The Inside Story of How the FBI’s Robert Hanssen Betrayed America
by Wise, David
Spy tells, for the first time, the full, authoritative story of how FBI agent Robert Hanssen, code name grayday, spied for Russia for twenty-two years in what has been called the “worst intelligence disaster in U.S. history”–and how he was finally caught in an incredible gambit by U.S. intelligence. David Wise, the nation’s leading espionage writer, has called on his unique knowledge and unrivaled intelligence sources to write the definitive, inside story of how Robert Hanssen betrayed his country, and why. Spy at last reveals the mind and motives of a man who was a walking paradox: FBI counterspy, KGB mole, devout Catholic, obsessed pornographer who secretly televised himself and his wife having sex so that his best friend could watch, defender of family values, fantasy James Bond who took a stripper to Hong Kong and carried a machine gun in his car trunk.
Charlie Wilson’s War
by Crile, George
It's common knowledge that the U.S. armed the Afghans in their fight against the Soviet Union, but until now, the fact that this was possibly the biggest, meanest covert operation in history has been absent from press reports. In one of the most detailed descriptions of a CIA operation every written, the bizarre twists and turns of the full story are told in CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR. Veteran 60 Minutes producer George Crile explains how one Congressman was able to provide the CIA with hundreds of millions of dollars to fund the Afghan program, dwarfing the price tag for arming the Nicaraguan Contras that occurred at virtually the same time.

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